City leaders may re-design one of downtown Raleigh’s most iconic open spaces.
The Raleigh City Council says it wants to renovate City Plaza, the event space created on the south end of Fayetteville Street in 2009. But council members aren’t sure how much they want to change or spend.
Staff members say repairs are needed because the plaza area is wearing down and the fountain often needs maintenance. They say the fountain and planters are damaged from skateboarders and vehicle collisions, while the street lights are tarnished from vandals and the elevated street is worn down from heavy trucks and weather.
Council members say they want to renovate it because the plaza, near the Raleigh Convention Center and several hotels, is a welcome mat for the city. Last year alone, nearly a million people attended 86 events there.
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It looks awful. It’s not Raleigh’s living room, which is what it was designed to be. It’s the rumpus room.
Mary-Ann Baldwin, Raleigh City Council member
“It looks awful,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said. “It’s not Raleigh’s living room, which is what it was designed to be. It’s the rumpus room.”
Raleigh controls City Plaza in conjunction with Highwoods Realty Limited Partnership, which owns part of it. Raleigh staff studied the plaza last year after Highwoods approached the city in 2015 with concerns about maintenance and inefficient pedestrian flow.
In a work session Tuesday, city staff presented council members with three options for renovating the plaza:
▪ For about $4.4 million, the city could re-pave the plaza, add more seating options and remove the planter in front of the BB&T building, as well as the fountain in front of One City Plaza. Removing the fountain and planter would create space for more events such as aerobics classes or food markets.
▪ For about $2.3 million, the city could remove the fountain but not the planters, add seating and make smaller repairs to the street. The city could also add an overhang to create shade, or a bike rental station. The council last year approved funding for “BikeShare” rentals that they plan to install at several locations downtown.
▪ For about $1.2 million, the city could make minor repairs to planter walls, the fountain, the street and the sidewalk lamps.
Most council members favored the more expensive options. Baldwin and Councilman Bonner Gaylord said they favored more substantial changes, while Mayor Pro Tem Kay Crowder said she’s not interested in a sweeping renovation.
“Four million is a lot of money. It’s way too much,” Crowder said, adding that she wants to consider raising the $250 fee to rent plaza space.
Raleigh has about $550,000 in its budget for City Plaza. The council could boost funding by taking it from other projects, borrowing money or taking it out of reserves, said Ruffin Hall, the city manager.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she’s interested in removing the fountain because it takes up too much space and requires a lot of maintenance. All 12 diverters, which spray streams in varying directions, needed to be replaced this winter at a cost of about $25,000, said Rich Kelly, the city’s engineering services director.
City staff plans to repair the fountain, buy more patio furniture and try to create a zone so commercial trucks can unload their packages for the companies that operate out of the kiosks, like Jimmy John’s and Happy + Hale, said Roberta Fox, Raleigh city planner.
Staff members also plan to ask BB&T representatives if they’re interested in adding retail space to the bottom floor of the building, and report back to the council later this year, Fox said. In the meantime, council members say they’ll consider the importance of City Plaza while crafting the next city budget, which they’ll likely pass in June.
“People who come into town might say ‘Hey your fountain’s broken’ but other than that there’s nothing urgent,” Gaylord said. “It could be better, but we’ve got time.”